Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Are People Really Working Longer Hours?

In a recent article in the 'Business Insider' titled "The 40-hour workweek is on its way out", the author detailed the findings of a poll of 9,700 workers in 9 countries regarding hours worked. Here are some of the key findings pertaining to the U.S.:
  • 58% of U.S. managers -- the second worst of all countrys surveyed -- said they worked more than 40 hours a week; and, 40% of those said their hours have increased over the last 5 years.
  • Higher percentages of parents complained of having to work longer hours than non-parents.
  • One-third said its gotten harder to balance family and job over the last 5 years.
  • 10% said flex-hours may have cost them things like promotions.
  • Two-thirds said they would consider quitting if flex-hours were eliminated.
The problems with this study are many:
  • The survey group is relatively small. Less than 1100 people per country. As such, we are then supposed to believe these findings can be generally applied to the more than 116 million businesses employing 157 million workers in this country. Also, the sample of opinions is even smaller when you consider that those being sampled are managers, supervisors, salaried non-supervisors, and hourly workers.
  • The entire survey is emotionally based on what people "said" and not fact based on actual hours worked.
  • The quality of management is not being assessed. Many managers don't utilize their time wisely by being paper shufflers and subsequently work longer hours because of it. All too often managers who work very long hours have a habit of picking up a piece of paper and, instead of acting on it, set it aside to mull it over again at a later time, repeating this process many times. 
  • Are we really supposed to believe that parents are being forced to work longer hours than non-parent?
However, the biggest problem with the survey is that it flies in the face of the facts.  Workers in the U.S. have seen their hours steadily drop from a high of 36.9 hours/week or 1918 hour/year in 1951, as this graph from the St. Louis Federal Reserve's database clearly shows:

Support of a lower than 40 hour week also comes from the monthly employment report.  Referencing Table B, in March, the average work week was only 34.5 hours. Also understand, that 34.5 is an average. So, it is safe to say that some number of workers are working longer than 34.5 hours and others are working less.

Sadly, as flawed as this report is, it is being hyped all over news and business stations.  As such, the seed is being planted in a lot of people's heads, that they are being taken advantage of by their employers.  When, in fact, the average worker in America is working less than his or her counterpart of 65 years ago.


The 40-hour workweek is on its way out:

St. Louis Fed: Hours Worked Per Year:

USA Quick Facts:

March 2015 Employment Report:

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